Like a lemon cheesecake in cupcake form, these zingy and bright lemon cupcakes are topped with a super smooth and creamy cream cheese buttercream.

If you’ve made my lemon raspberry cupcakes or lemon blueberry cupcakes, then you’ll know this base cupcake recipe well. It’s the same one.

A batch of lemon cupcakes on a wooden board.

Why you’ll love them

  • Tangy and sweet
  • Moist but light
  • So easy to make
  • Buttery and rich
  • Filled with a surprise lemon curd centre.
  • Topped with cream cheese buttercream.

If this flourless lemon cake  is anything to go by, lemon is one of the loved dessert flavours on this blog. Lemon is refreshing and zingy, sweet and tart and easy to get all year round.

The buttercream is rich and creamy, perfectly offsetting the tartness of the lemon.

Ingredients in lemon cupcakes

All ingredients are common to cake and cupcake baking keeping these cupcakes super simple.

Ingredients for lemon cupcakes on a marble surface.
Ingredients for lemon cupcakes
  • Flour (1), salt (2), baking powder (3) and cornflour / cornstarch (4) – this makes up the main dry ingredients. I use a combination of flour and cornflour instead of buying cake flour. It just makes the cupcakes softer.
  • Milk (5): Just regular whole or full cream milk.
  • Lemon curd (6): Use this homemade lemon curd for the best flavour but you can use shop-bought if you prefer.
  • Cream cheese (7): Use block form, if you can get it, and it must be full fat.
  • Butter (8): unsalted is perfect here.
  • Vanilla extract (9): please use extract not essence. Essence is an artificial flavouring.
  • Fresh lemons (10): Make sure to use fresh and not bottled lemon juice.
  • Eggs (11): Make sure they’re at room temperature.
  • Sugar (12): Regular white granulated sugar.
  • Icing sugar (13): aka powdered sugar for the frosting.

How to make lemon cupcakes

This cupcake recipe strays a little from a traditional recipe. Using melted butter means no creaming butter and sugar together making them super simple.  

4 images showing steps to making lemon cupcake batter.
  1. Whisk together the eggs and sugar (photo 1) until they’re frothy.
  2. Add the remaining wet ingredients, except the milk.
  3. Now alternate the dry ingredients and milk (photos 2&3).
  4. An ice cream scoop makes portioning the batter between the cupcake cases easy (photo 4).
4 images showing the filling and assembling of the lemon cupcakes.
  1. Use a cupcake corer or just a sharp knife to cut a hole in the top of each cupcake (photo 5).
  2. Fill each hole with lemon curd (photo 6).
  3. Whip up the frosting – it’s so easy – until thick, creamy and pipeable (photo 7).
  4. Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes (photo 8).

If you’re not a fan of cream cheese frosting, you could try this amazing german buttercream. You could also try this strawberry buttercream or the creamiest orange buttercream.

A cupcake cut open showing the surprise centre inside.

Other filling ideas

These cupcakes don’t need to filled with lemon curd. They would taste so good filled with any of these ideas too.

Tools you’ll need

Cupcake tips and tricks

  • Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature before starting
  • Beat the eggs well at the start (until they start to get frothy)
  • Once you add the dry ingredients, don’t mix too much or you’ll end up with tough cupcakes.
  • When baking, you should always weigh your ingredients. Kitchen scales are relatively cheap but if you can’t weigh your ingredients then flours especially should be measured using the spoon and level method (don’t scoop).
  • Always bake cupcakes until a toothpick comes out with just a couple of crumbs. They can easily overbake so check them as it’s getting close to the noted cooking time.

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A batch of lemon cupcakes on a wooden board.

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A batch of lemon cupcakes on a wooden board.

Fluffy Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Buttercream

4.58 from 7 votes
Like sunshine in a mini cake, these fluffy and moist lemon cupcakes are bursting with zesty lemon flavour and topped with an easy cream cheese buttercream. They even have a hidden lemon curd surprise centre.

Ingredients

FOR THE CUPCAKES

  • 195 g plain (all purp) Flour (1 1/2 cups / 6.8oz)
  • 30 g corn flour (corn starch) (1oz)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cup granulated white sugar (250g / 8.8oz)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 113 g unsalted butter, melted (½ cup / 4oz)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (notes 1)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (notes 1)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • cup full cream (whole) milk (160ml)

FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  • 226 g unsalted butter, softened (1 cup / 2 sticks)
  • 200 g full fat cream cheese (7oz)
  • 390 g icing (powdered) sugar (3 cups / 13.8oz)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of one medium lemon
  • Pinch of salt

FILLING & TOPPING

  • ¼ cup lemon curd (notes 3)
  • 3 cookies of choice, crumbled

Instructions
 

FOR THE CUPCAKES

  • Preheat oven to 180C / 350F / 160C fan forced. 12 muffin tin holes with paper cupcake cases.
  • In a large bowl, combine the plain flour, corn flour, baking powder and salt and whisk together to lighten and evenly distribute.
  • In a large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs together until frothy (you can do this by hand, or with a hand beater or in a stand mixer).
  • Whisk in the butter, vanilla, lemon juice and zest.
  • Pour half of the dry ingredients into the wet and stir until just combined. Pour in the milk and stir gently, then the remaining dry ingredients – only stir just enough to fully combine everything.
  • Fill the cupcake liners about ¾ full, then bake for around 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out with just a few crumbs on it. Make sure to turn the tray halfway through cooking so they all cook evenly.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before transferring the cupcakes to a wire rack.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  • In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese, along with ½ cup of the icing sugar until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • With the mixer on low, add the remaining icing sugar ½ cup at a time, beating just to combine after each. Beat for a couple of minutes until smooth and fluffy.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the salt, vanilla, lemon zest and cream and beat to combine. If the frosting is too thin to pipe, add a little more icing sugar a bit at a time or place the frosting in the fridge for 10-15 minutes and give it a good beat before using.

TO ASSEMBLE

  • Cut a small hole in the top of each cupcake and add in 1 teaspoon of lemon curd to each.
  • Pipe the buttercream on top then scatter over the crumbled cookies.

Notes

  1. I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (= 4 teaspoons worldwide)
  2. For best results, you should always weigh ingredients like flour and sugar. Kitchen scales are relatively cheap but if you can’t weigh the ingredients, use the spoon and level method (don’t scoop).
  3. You can use shop bought or homemade lemon curd. Tip: homemade is very easy and tastes so much better.
  4. All ovens vary, make sure to check your bakes 3-5 minutes before the recipe suggests.
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